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Open-concept offices, hot desks damage worker productivity: survey

Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians are distracted by colleagues and poorly designed workspaces, losing up to two hours a day, according to co-working firm iQ Offices

Open-concept offices and unassigned "hot desks" may be all the rage, but they could be costing your firm or office tenants up to two hours a day in productivity per employee, according to a poll released February 10.

A Canada-wide survey commissioning by co-working firm iQ Offices found that 57 per cent of Canadians said they have to fight distraction at work every day, which affects their productivity. This figure rises to 68 per cent among Millennial workers aged 35 and under.

When asked what affected productivity the most, respondents cited overhearing loud talkers and overly chatty colleagues as the biggest drain (54 per cent of respondents).

The physical workspace ranked second on the list, with nearly half of Canadians (49 per cent) agreeing that “noisy recreation areas within the space” and a “distracting open concept work environment” were reducing their productivity.

Rounding out the top three drains on productivity, 43 per cent of Canadians identified “unassigned workspaces where I don’t have a permanent desk or office” as a key complaint.

These three factors, all related to physical environment, beat out even “time-wasting meetings,” which were identified by 38 per cent of Canadians as a major drain on productivity.

Kane Willmott, CEO and co-founder of iQ Offices, said, “Canadians overwhelmingly highlight design, physical environment productivity challenges like nomad seating arrangements, noise and distracting open-concept design, ahead of workload-related challenges, such as excessive email (17 per cent) or unexpected extra work (19 per cent).”

The survey found that office environment was so important that 64 per cent of respondents said they would agree to earn “slightly less money to work in a conveniently located… beautiful workspace designed for productivity and employee satisfaction.”

More than two-third (73 per cent) of respondents estimated they could save one to two hours a day if they worked in an office designed to minimize distraction. This breaks down to more than one-third (35 per cent) reporting they could boost productivity by a full two hours each day, with 38 per cent estimating they could get their daily seven hours of work completed in six hours.

Willmott said, “Imagine what your business could accomplish if you gave the one to two hours of daily lost productivity back to your team. Better work-life balance, better business performance. My top productivity hacks are white noise systems, extra sound deadening materials, private work areas and office management support services. Wellness features like sit stand desks and nap rooms are a much better investment than a noisy recreation area when trying to improve productivity of teams and business performance. A mix of closed and open areas is optimal. The reality is people generally prefer this to open-concept workplaces.”

Western Investor